Incubus by Rick R. Reed
What if…a stranger with a knife ripped away the love of your life?
What if…that love came back to you?
What if…that love looked the same, but you knew it couldn’t really be him?
Incubus is the haunting—and haunted—tale of Oliver and Ryan, a young couple who have traveled to Montreal from Chicago to get married. It’s late and they’re on their way home from their honeymoon, and their trip on Chicago’s el trains and subways is fraught with strange characters, one a biker-jacket-clad man who urges them to “Get close to Lucifer!” But the oddest stranger they encounter is a man in a zippered leather mask who waits for them in an underground parking garage with a knife. Only one of the men will emerge from this encounter alive.
Oliver’s depression overwhelms him, having seen his hope for a new life with his new husband squashed in an instant. He feels so alone. Or is he? When Ryan begins to appear to him again in the dark, and to make love to him, Oliver is happy…and in denial. He ignores this new Ryan’s cold touch, his strange eyes, and the odd burns Ryan’s touch leaves on his skin.
Has Oliver’s despair and desire for his lost love opened a door to something dark and terrifying? Is the Ryan who returns to him really the Ryan he loves, or a demonic imposter? And when love is brutally ripped away, will Oliver decide it doesn’t matter?
With Incubus, Rick R. Reed merges his talent for horror with a tragic love story and the result is…chilling…
This is an odd short story without much context and with a weird premise. Oliver and Ryan live in Chicago and are returning from Canada where they combined a wedding and honeymoon into one trip. The blurb is incorrect about that detail. Ryan and Oliver are attacked close to their apartment and Ryan is tragically killed. Oliver is drowning in grief when Ryan suddenly returns, but he’s not the same man Oliver knew.
The story itself is very short and choppy. The first 15 pages or so sets up the scene of Oliver and Ryan returning home on the el train and all the various weird folks they encounter on the journey. This is to lure both men into complacency when confronted with another odd individual so close to their apartment. After Ryan’s death, the next 15 pages or so deals with Oliver’s overwhelming grief. The implication in the story is that Ryan was somehow changed into an incubus, which leads Oliver to seek out a strange man with answers. Unfortunately, this is poorly executed and comes off more as confusing and random than in keeping with the incubus lore and context.
How Ryan became an incubus is a mystery as well as the story never actually identifies Ryan as such. He could be a figment of Oliver’s imagination for what information the story offers. The entire scene following Ryan’s “return” with Oliver and the homeless man in the subway is bizarre and again without much needed context and understanding. Instead each scene seems disconnected and separate, oddly put together to form a disjointed story. Adding to that is the ending, which has no resolution and no purpose per se, the entire story suffers from lack of coherent progression.
The individual elements may have worked if more effort was put into the second half of the story and explained how Ryan re-appeared and what exactly he was. Unfortunately the scene where Oliver scurries under his bed when his mom visits is ridiculous, corny, and totally unbelievable. That bed would have to sit pretty high off the ground for a “big guy” to get under it and then his whispers are just odd. This short story ultimately doesn’t work, even with the engaging beginning. The author is very talented and often has deft skill with horror elements but here failed to give enough context and information to work the theme of the Incubus into the story in an interesting and fascinating way. Instead the story is simply weird with unattractive characters, an ill executed premise and almost no context for the title.
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